The Guernsey Press ran a recent story connecting the Education Department’s “Big Society” plans to rebuild La Mare De Carteret with a debate on the eleven plus. This sparked a debate on whether the eleven plus should be retained or not between me and my mate Bill.

Bill came out with the usual nanny state arguments about kids being scarred for life and living in fear that their lives will be ruined if they don’t pass the eleven plus.

I said that everyone is going to fail at some point. Learning what your shortcomings are and learning to lose is part of the rounding process. Besides, I said, everyone brings something to the table. Overall we’re all equal, but society surely will function best by finding the optimum sum of the parts, we want round pegs in round holes and square peg in square holes. Therefore those with the highest IQ should not be held back by those of less intelligence and should receive the best education. Equally the best footballers should have the best football coaches, the best musicians the best musical training etc.

Bill says we’re sending out a message that the success of life of an individual is determined by their IQ. I asked if that is really so bad and even if it is, said that that cannot be the fault of the eleven plus. The eleven plus is the same as it has always been. I passed mine and I’m a milkman. George Bush became President of the USA – is his IQ higher than mine? Is his IQ higher than anyone’s? Ok –maybe Prince Andrew, but he’s not actually short of high living either.

In my day we just turned up at school and did the eleven plus. We didn’t really know what it was all about or attach any great importance to it. So if the kids are today somehow believing that proof of a high IQ is the be all and end all, we need to look at why that is. I was a lot more devastated when I realised I wouldn’t be a professional footballer than I would have been had I failed the eleven plus.

In fact given that computers and smart technology are increasingly doing most of the thinking and most of the work, those with higher intelligence seem to be being having their potential for contributing to society increasingly obscured.

Bill said that we can’t go back and change that. The internet horse has bolted and we should use the net and fight fire with fire. The eleven plus is not fit for purpose, Bill informs me, (churning out one of the standard lines of those with robotic tendencies).

My response to that is “defeatist claptrap”. It’s not surprising that Bill once walked off the football pitch when his team was losing. It’s a wonder he didn’t ask to play for the other team. People seem to accept change as if it is some sort of natural act or evolution. It isn’t. It’s driven by people, and people can drive it back.

If the horse has bolted then we should find a faster horse and bolt after it. If the eleven plus and the purpose aren’t marrying up, and we know the eleven plus hasn’t changed, then I contend that the purpose isn’t fit for the eleven plus.

Here’s an analogy:

There is a long straight wide, open, smooth road. At one end is Heaven, and at the other end is the human race, sitting in their cars as they do. Satan comes along and says “I’m not having this. I’m not going to get any customers”. So he puts a fork in the road (he’s good with forks, is Satan). He takes a leaf out of the Environment Department’s book (any similarity between Satan and individuals in the States are purely coincidental – I’d hate to offend Satan) and puts the traffic on the road to hell.

But the road which Satan has built is narrow and rutted and twisty and everything the road to Heaven is not. The traffic is stuck, confused, chaotic and congested. “What shall we do?” ask the humans.

“We need to smooth over, widen and straighten this road” says Bill.

“We need to get rid of the fork in the road” I said.

The humans had a choice.

Oh and by the way, what I wonder did Bill mean by “the success of the life of an individual?” It’s quite simple really.

There is no greater ambition than to be happy. So success is defined by happiness.

So once you learn that the only person who decides whether you are happy or not is you, it really is wonderfully simple. Ever since I was told this and started seeing things in this light, everything I see and do has been pure entertainment. It’s like being on the outside, watching a film. Or in my case, a feature length episode of “One Foot In The Grave” with me playing Victor Meldrew….


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